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Mine Refinery Site in Kitazawa

How to get

Get off the #1 bus (Hon-sen) at Aikawa Bus stop which is usually the final stop for #1 buses. Walk to north and turn right when you have crossed a small river. Those facilities are big as shown in Photo.12.1, so you will find the place easily.


Photo.12.1 Mine Refinery Site in Kitazawa

Sado Gold and Silver Mine was the biggest mine in Japan from seventeenth to twentieth century1). At the end of 19th century, the mine was sold to Mitsubishi in 1896. The company had run the mine until March 31 in 1989 when was the end of 388 years of the mine' s history2). Since it is a historical place, perhaps people may think that the highest production was achieved in old times. However, the most productive year was 1940 with 1,537.9 kilograms if gold2). Japan was at great war since 1937 with China and since 1941 with United States of America. Therefore, the fact that the most productive year was 1940 implies that this mine was also important war resources for Japan to conduct those reckless war.

In those war years, millions of Japanese men were soldiers. This caused severe lack of labor forces in many industries. Not only women and students had to work in the factories, but Many Asian people and prisoners of war were also assigned to work for Japanese industries. They had to work in more dangerous places like mines, construction sites, and factories. When it comes to Chinese labor, 38,000 were brought from China to Japan3). 38,000 was the number of Chinese people taken to Japan only. A huge number of Chinese people were forcefully made to work in Chinese land where was under Japan's control.


Photo.12.2 Water-Ore Separation Apparutus with 50m dia.

People from Korean peninsula were also forced to work. Approximately 2 million Korean people were thought to be on Japanese land as labor during those war years. The number of such people were so huge; this was because the peninsula is geographically close to Japan and because Korea had been colonized by Japan from 1910 to 1945. Disastrous situation of those workers are depicted in a book4) written by Mr Park. They had to work under very bad conditions with very low wage, long hour, and least welfare in dangerous place. Even if you visit the Mine Refinery Site in Kitazawa, you will not see any signs of hardships of those Korean people, althouigh the old concrete structures are still visible.

1939 is thought to be the year that forceful labor mobilizations started under the Japanese government's plan. The labor mobilization had changed its name from recruitment, government mediation, and to conscription5). According to a statistics in June 1937, 802 Korean were working in Mitsubishi Mining Industry in Sado. The number of Korean workers is thought to be more6). Korean workers in Sado Mine wanted Mitsubishi to improve their working conditions in February to April in 1940, and gone into the strike. Mitsubishi promised an improvement, however, their report reveals the company's discriminatory attitudes against Korean workers7). Another statistics as of June, 1943 reported the following numbers; total Korean worker mobilized were 1,005, Deaths were 10, returned with wounds were 36, deportations were 25, and Escapees were 148. Although the subtraction from 1005 does not coincide, the report said the present number was 5848). Of these 584, many were allotted to dangerous jobs in drilling and carrying in comparison to Japanese workers of 7099).


Photo.12.3 View from the Downslope from Aikawa Hospital

In fact, so many Korean people worked to build the basic infrastructures in Japan in the first half of twentieth century. They worked in dangerous conditions and some died. Many Korean workers came to Japan even before the start of labor mobilization plan in 1939. However, it cannot be said that they came by their free will. Korea was colonized by Japan from 1910 to 1945. Since Japan's exploitation was so severe that many Korean had to resort to working in Japan. Probably such Korean people came to and worked in Sado Minery Industry.
Also on the main land of Niigata Prefecture, many Korean worked for some constructions of infrastructure. Sometimes labor disputes happened because of bad working conditions. In July 29, 1922, massacre of Korean workers were reported by a newspaper. It was in the construction site of the second power plant in Nakatsugawa10).
Let us look at another Korean labors on the main land of Niigata. The official history book of Higashi Kambara District wrote about Korean labors in the constructions of Kanose and Toyomi power plants from September 1926 to December 1929. The book actually includes surprisingly too discriminative tones to be what was written in 2013;
Quote "They (Korean) were useful labor for the contractor because their salary was hold down to a level of 50-sen that was lower than Japanese workers' 80-sen to 1-yen (100-sen), and because they could live in shabby houses and could endure even if they were poorly fed" 11) end-of-quote.
One record says that Korean workers in the Dam constructions were more than 700 in Kanose, about 1,000 in Toyomi12). In September 19, 1926, 14 Korean workers were killed by capsizing of the boat that was heading to the construction site13).

Currently, several webpages introduce Kanose and Toyomi Dams on the internet. However, none of them mention Korean labors and their sacrifices in the constructions of the dams. Likewise it is almost forgotten that so many Korean worked and some died for constructions of modern infrastructures that are still supporting Japanese people's daily life.